If you care about the Halo franchise, it’s likely that you’re already clued in to some big changes on the way to the series. Creator and longtime steward of the series, Bungie, has finally moved on to its own new venture, leaving one of video games’ most beloved series in the hands of an untested studio – 343 Industries. But while 343’s development muscle is yet to be confirmed, the company has been working behind the scenes for years now as the overseer of the Halo brand.

With a new studio in place, and an open universe of stories to explore, what can we expect out of Halo 4? We’ve examined info that has emerged from E3 back in June all the way up through this weekend’s Halo Fest at PAX, and pulled together some educated guesses about just what can be expected when Halo 4 releases. While there are few confirmed details about the game, the puzzle pieces are beginning to form an intriguing picture.

The Forerunner

The Forerunner and their technology will be at the center of the Halo 4 experience. 343 Industries has as much as confirmed it through the brief snippets of information gleaned about the game so far. In the recent Halo Fest panel, art director Kenneth Scott mentioned something about Master Chief’s ship being on its way towards a Forerunner planet – possibly implying that the huge maw depicted in the trailer opens into a world, rather than a ship. Art within the new trailer depicts scenes that may be from that very planet, where it seems Master Chief’s ship may eventually crash. Perhaps the setting of Halo 4 is partially the interior of a micro Dyson Sphere, also called a shield world in Halo-speak. A similar shield world was a centerpiece in the novel Halo: Ghosts of Onyx – a huge sphere with the habitable area along the inside edge of the sphere.

Perhaps the biggest piece of recent info about Halo 4 is its position as the first in a trilogy of games called the Reclaimer Trilogy. The term Reclaimer should be a familiar one to anyone who has played the Halo games, but it’s more recently revealed source may be lesser known. As near as has been pieced together by the fan community, Reclaimer is a Forerunner term for humanity, or at least a certain subset of humanity. Before departing the galaxy, the Forerunner designated these human Reclaimers as the inheritors of their power – that’s one of the reasons Master Chief is uniquely enabled to activate various Forerunner devices in the earlier games. The fact that Halo 4 and its two sequels are called the Reclaimer Trilogy suggests that we’ll learn a lot more about that inheritance, and the wider connection of humanity to the ancient Forerunner race.

The 343 team has also implied that recent elements of the Halo universe outside of the games have an important connection to Halo 4. Specifically, the art for Greg Bear’s Halo: Cryptum novel is taken directly from art made for Halo 4. Additionally, Frank O’Connor stated at the Halo Universe panel at this year’s Comic-Con that Greg Bear’s sequel, Halo: Primordium would include “resonant connections” to Halo 4. Meanwhile, author Greg Bear has hinted that there may be some sort of connection between a human in that trilogy (set some 100,000 years before the Halo games) and Master Chief, further supporting the concept of Master Chief as a Reclaimer.

The books in question, collectively referred to as the Forerunner Saga, chronicle details about the Forerunner race, including their interaction with a space-faring society of humans that existed all those years ago. As the novels have often been scheduled to have relevance to the current game releases, it’s likely that this current run of books about the Forerunner race will be central to fully understanding the world presented in Halo 4.

Next up: The return of Halo's hero